17 August, 2007

Dear Diary: here's a Catch-Up on our recent doings in Thailand and Laos

Marie reads her fortune in some teak leaves.

We took an exploratory bus-ride out to the east of Chiangmai, to Phrae. Never got as far as the town of Nan cuz we felt the area didn't quite measure up to the descriptions we'd read. Getting picky in our old age. But before we left, we bumped into this Chinese Opera [above] which was being staged in the courtyard of a Chinese Temple. Plenty of demons, amplified nasal singing, loud cymbals and scary waving of wooden swords. Audience behaviour in Asia is completely different to concert protocols in the West: people chatter, kids ride their bikes around the seating, phones ring, and fruit-sellers do their normal business. It's like an opera is a normal part of life. Which it is. Here.

Changed direction on a whim and headed west towards Sukhothai, one of thailand's former capitals in the dry central plains. Hot. But we hired a friendly chap with a 3-wheel songthaew contraption who took us everywhere. Couldn't do enough for us.

A mythical Dancing Apsara statue at Sukhothai.

This Climbing Apsara was spotted gracefully ascending the steep 'Stone Bridge' up to a ruined Buddhist temple called Wat Saphan Hin [=stone bridge temple]. We sweated 1.8 litres between us on that climb.

Wat Saphan Hin offered a nice shady spot at the feet of a giant standing Buddha.

More ruins than you could swing an elephant at. These are the remains of a Reclining Buddha, restored just enough so that you can imagine the rest.

Then it was off to Bangkok to greet a sapphire-mining delegation from Queensland. In this pic, Alan & Brenton scrutinize the King's Palace. It passed the tough inspection.

Then off to Luangprabang in Laos. Dangerous river trip dodging submerged rocks on the Maekhong, caving in pitch-black secret caves, fire-breathing monsters et al. In the photo above, we watched the world petanque championship, conducted in Laotian not French. The competitors were mainly the 3-wheel jumbo drivers.

And finally back to Chiangmai. More here. On this misty moisty morning, Kuhn Alan snaps some of the Queen's orchids. It is often cool up on top of Doi Suthep mountain at the Queen's Winter Palace. She'd gone to the dentist. In Moscow.

Our condo building has a new coat of paint. Salmon and cream.

Care for a tatt? FunkyPix2 has a smorgasbord of unusual tatt and body art photos here and here.

An ad hoc permanent garage in a street near the condo.

So cool. Only 10 baht and I can be a guitar hero. Just pose around, leap in the air, etc, while pressing any one of the 5 coloured buttons on the neck of the pretend guitar. Why did I waste all those years?

We were invited to a house-warming, Thai-style, at the newly-completed traditional thatch house of a friend of ours in the mountains about 50k outside Chiangmai. Her whole village was there, and the monks had already started chanting when we arrived. The monks having eaten, it was our turn whilst being entertained by several groups of Thai dancers.

That Apsara again, adorned by orchids and chilies.

Mothers' Day in Thailand is accompanied by public candle ceremonies to honour mums, plus the local brass band in pink cowboy hats and tassels.

Here the Apsara places a candle for Nicolette and Anna. Note how the steps of a shopping centre become the temporary venue for quasi-spiritual activities, a clever strategy for associating Virtue with spending money.

As part of the festival of Buddhist Lent [basically, the Monsoon season], Buddhists burn a lot of candles. Several trucks went along Huaykeaw Road carrying 1800 monster candles in seasonal yellow. Some are about 4 feet high, 12" thick, and carved with dragons etc.

...and more farce in the Thaksin saga. Here's an earlier FunkyPix2 post which may help to explain why Thai authorities want him arrested and extradited to Thailand.

Kevhon Howrudd and Toto Gillard were spotted touting at a Chiangmai go-go bar - along with Kuhn Elvis. See another tell-all photo of Kevin Rudd (and his nuclear co-conspirator Howard) here.

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